Each spring, the AJA Upper School runs a special, week-long “mini-mester” during which all classes (except for some math classes and most Advanced Placement classes) go on hiatus, thereby allowing us to offer students the opportunity to take two or three special electives, with classes running for 75 to 90 minutes daily.
These electives cover a wide range of topics, ranging from the practical (such as computer programming, car repair, photography, and Finance 101) to the more esoteric (such as Banned Books and the First Amendment, a comparative course on the American and Israeli legal systems, Jewish Mysticism and Positive Psychology And Torah). We run fun courses such as Frisbee golf and have even given a course on ritual slaughter (whose concluding lesson involved a BBQ with chickens the students had prepared according to the halakhic requirements they learned during the week).
While our Upper School teachers of course comprise the backbone of these special electives, a number of courses each year are taught by parent volunteers and even some Emory professors in our community.
Mini-mester is an important part of our educational offerings and is one of the most popular programs we offer students.
The Cause Fair provides AJA Upper School students the opportunity to raise public awareness of some of the critical issues facing society. The process begins when students in AJA's Honors British Literature and Modern Literature classes identify critical issues that they believe need immediate attention. They are then challenged to come up with a realistic and doable plan of action that harnesses the power of the individual and makes a difference at the local level. Once they've become experts in their field by researching and writing a 10-15 page paper, students are given the opportunity to spread the word. Taking the most important information from their essays, students prepare, practice, and present TED-talk-style sessions in which they try to gain public support for their cause to an audience of classmates and community members.
The Cause Fair has a strong word-of-mouth reputation (almost all AJA-US students will participate at some time during their high school career), and the positive peer pressure of presenting in front of classmates, teachers, and parents often yields remarkable results.
Topics from past Cause Fair presentations include:
- When is Being Thin, Thin Enough? Teens Starving for Perfection
- The Soaring Costs for a Simple Breath: The Prescription Drug Crisis in America
- Big Brother is Watching: The NSA and the Loss of Rights
- Alzheimers: Forgetting Everything You Care About
- Circus Animals: What's Entertainment for You is Torture for Them
- Life Behind a Burqa: The Fight for Women's Rights in Afghanistan
- Teenage Mental Illness: Are You Affected?
- Armed for Life: Benefits of HPV Vaccination
- The 'F' Word: Today's Feminism
- The Not-So-Secret Ingredient Behind Coke...and Much More: Nutrition Exposed
- Teaching to Fish: The Alternative Route to Welfare
- New College Compact: Managing the Costs of College
- The Lost: Missing Children and How to Find Them
The Cause Fair is always a highlight of the school year--we encourage all AJA parents to attend next year to learn about the causes our students want to address.
With a variety of exciting options to choose from, students at AJA Upper School take elective classes at the end of every day. Each semester, students elect a new last period class.
Some electives run every year, such as Studio Art, Palette (the AJA student newspaper), Judaic electives, Music, Yearbook, Organizational Skills, and Peer Leadership for seniors. Other electives are requested or even voted on by the students, and then teachers or specialists are brought in to instruct. These electives often become part of an annual rotation as students explore new things and reflect on past experiences. Some examples are Girls' Track, Girls' Yoga, Boys' Conditioning Plus, Graphic Arts, SAT Prep, Special Topics in Math, and Improv.
Here are some class descriptions of our available electives:
Studio Art helps students express their creativity through a variety of skills and concepts including proportionality, symbolism, and gesture and contour drawing. Students have the opportunity to paint, draw from life in a variety of settings, participate in meaningful art contests, and visit art exhibitions.
Peer Leadership is an educational program that teaches lifelong leadership skills to upperclassmen, implemented in the school framework to foster an easy transition for underclassmen to the Upper School setting. Our Peer Leaders engage year-round with our freshmen, take a leading role in Freshman Orientation, and direct Shabbaton activities.
Women in STEM is an exciting initiative intended to encourage our young women to pursue fields in science, technology, engineering, or math. This elective features a broad range of speakers, fun and zany experiments, and eye-opening field trips.
Graphic Arts provides our students with an introductory course in digital graphic creation. The goal of Graphic Arts is to explore layout, paint, selection and editing techniques using the industry standard imaging tool, Photoshop. Photoshop can help students develop multi-media presentations for dynamic projects and/or assignments. At the end of a long day in school, students find it easy to renew their energy and focus when presented with the opportunity to digitally mess with people's faces.